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Close Calls - Week 14

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Editor's Note: Joe Nelson is the No. 1 NFL handicapper on VegasInsider.com (62%, +1,435). Don't miss out on his Week 15 Winners!

NFL games often go down to the wire, especially relative to the spread. Here are close calls from Week 14 of the NFL season, recapping the spread-changing plays from the fourth quarters around the league. Each week there are several key plays late in games that can change the result or create a misleading final score, get the details in this weekly column.
 
Baltimore Ravens (-5½) 29, Minnesota Vikings 26 (41½): Leading 12-7 early in the fourth quarter the Vikings were in a safe position for the underdog cover and those on the ‘under’ or the moneyline had to feel confident before one of the wildest finishes in NFL history. Baltimore found the end zone with 2:05 to play to take a 15-12 lead but just 38 seconds later Toby Gerhart broke a long run to put the Vikings back up by four. The kickoff to Jacoby Jones was then run all the way back for touchdown to Baltimore back on top. With the Vikings getting the ball back a short screen pass turned into a 79-yard touchdown for Cordarrelle Patterson as Minnesota led by four again with just 45 seconds to play, with that touchdown putting the game ‘over’ the total. An interception appeared to end the game but Baltimore was bailed out by a suspect pass interference penalty and the Ravens were out of timeouts and down to the Minnesota nine-yard line with 10 seconds left. Joe Flacco found rookie Marlon Brown in the back of the end zone and Brown just narrowly got his toes down in an incredibly close call with the end line, a play that withstood review.
 
New England Patriots (-9½) 27, Cleveland Browns 26 (47½): Those backing the underdog Browns still won but this was another game where the total improbably shifted late and Cleveland somehow failed to cash heavy underdog moneyline tickets. Cleveland scored a touchdown with less than three minutes to go to lead by 12, leaving the total at just 40 with the number at 47½ by kickoff. It did not take long for the Patriots to get in the end zone but they still trailed by five. Incredibly New England was able to pick up the expected onside kick. The Patriots lucked into nearly 30 yards on a borderline pass interference call and a play later New England had taken the lead 27-26, pushing the game ‘over’ in the process as well. The Patriots did not get the two-point conversion and Cleveland nearly rallied for the win as Jason Campbell put the Browns in position for a final kick but the 58-yard kick fell just short despite being right on line.
 
Philadelphia (-3) 34, Detroit Lions 20 (53): With heavy snow in Philadelphia the total on this game dropped before game time and with just 20 points through three quarters and several inches of snow built up, the ‘under’ certainly looked safe. Detroit needed to maintain its lead in the NFC North and they had a 14-0 lead late in the third quarter that eventually slipped to just 14-6 before the start of the fourth quarter in a game where kicking was not an option. Both teams scored touchdowns in the first minute of the fourth quarter as the Lions still led by six but the Eagles poured it on late with 20 points in about a 10 minute span led by a few big runs from LeSean McCoy who wound up with 217 yards. Backup running back Chris Polk ran 38 yards for a touchdown with less than three minutes to go for the score that tilted the game ‘over’ despite the poor conditions and the slow start.
 
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Miami Dolphins (+3) 34, Pittsburgh Steelers 28 (41½):
With a Troy Polamalu interception return touchdown the Steelers had a 21-17 lead halfway through the third quarter with two touchdowns in 53 seconds. Miami answered with a touchdown to go back up by three but the Steelers took the lead back early in the fourth quarter. There were four consecutive punts as the clock wound down but Miami broke a 55-yard run to get into the red zone with less than three minutes to go, eventually cashing in with the go-ahead touchdown. Down three with time running down the Steelers had to eventually go for it on 4th and 10 but they failed to convert and made matters worse with a personal foul penalty. Miami did its best to burn some clock but they had to settle for a field goal, keeping the Steelers within six and within one score. Pittsburgh had just a minute to go and no timeouts and on the final play of the game the Steelers completed several laterals and eventually found Antonio Brown with some room on the sidelines. Brown sprinted up the field and appeared to go in for the score but he was ruled to have just stepped out of bounds at the 12 yard line to end the game. The play might not have withstood review with one of the passes looking suspiciously forward but the Steelers just missed an incredible finish as Miami took a big step in the playoff chase.
 
Denver Broncos (-12½) 51, Tennessee Titans 28 (50½): The Titans led 21-10 early in this game with a promising start for the huge underdog on the road. Denver scored 24 points consecutively to get past the spread late in the third quarter however. Justin Hunter scored on a big play for the Titans to trim the margin back to six points heading into the fourth quarter. Denver took over in the fourth quarter putting all the cold weather talk to bed as Peyton Manning added to his huge statistical season. Denver scored 17 points in the final frame to pull away as the Broncos had a massive yardage edge of over double what the Titans posted in the game.
 
San Francisco 49ers (-2½) 19, Seattle Seahawks 17 (41½): In this tense NFC West clash Seattle took a 14-9 lead with a big play in the passing game late in the third quarter but in the final seconds of the quarter San Francisco was back on top by two, just short of the common spread on the game. The Seahawks added a short field goal with just six minutes to go in the game to take the lead by one. On 1st down after picking up a key 3rd and short, Frank Gore broke loose for the 49ers, seemingly headed to the end zone before going down seemingly on his own accord at the Seattle 18-yard line. Whether intentional or not, ut proved to be a smart play to help the 49ers win the game but those on the 49ers laying -2½ sensed doom as San Francisco carefully used the clock and forced Seattle to exhaust its timeouts. San Francisco converted a key 3rd down conversion to burn more time and then settled for a 22-yard kick to win the game, leaving Seattle with just 26 seconds. Russell Wilson went for it all on 1st down and wound up with an interception as the Seattle receiver dove trying to sell an interference call.
 
Green Bay Packers (-3½) 22, Atlanta Falcons 21 (47½): The Falcons had an interception return touchdown right before halftime to lead 21-10 and while the Packers moved the ball well in the third quarter they wound up with only six points on two short field goals, still trailing by five heading into the fourth. Early in the final frame the Packers found the end zone but missed on the two-point try, leaving a one point lead but still with over 12 minutes to go. The Falcons would miss a 52-yard field goal try a few minutes later and then on the next drive they opted to go for it on 4th down instead of a 51-yard field goal attempt with just two minutes to go in the game. They came up short and while the Falcons would get still another chance with the ball late in the game an interception ended the threat and this was the lone cold weather game Sunday that managed to stay ‘under’ the total.

  
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